Regenerative agriculture is a buzzword in agriculture, swirling around as the industry works to adapt to climate change. Yet in order to reach its full potential, the approach must be viewed as a system of relationships with the land, says a University of Guelph human ecologist.
Dr. Philip Loring is the Arrell Chair in Food, Policy and Society and a professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences. He researches food security and sovereignty, community sustainability and environmental change.
Loring defines regenerative agriculture, which he describes as an example of agroecology in a Conversation Canada commentary, as a collection of food production practices that emphasize soil health, carbon sequestration, ecosystem resilience and nutrient-dense foods.
“At its heart, it’s a commitment to improving the ecological — and sometimes social — outcomes of agricultural practices by working with, rather than against, nature,” he adds.
For example, chagra is a system of forest relations used in Indigenous agroforestry that is indistinguishable from the forest itself for its practitioners, and that is responsible for filling the Amazon with much of its high biodiversity levels.
The ability to simultaneously address social and ecological issues is one of the strengths of regenerative agriculture. Its practices can be deliberately democratic. It focuses on people building relationships with one another and with the entire ecosystem. This makes it flexible enough to adapt to environments as they change, says Loring.
That, he says, can lead to benefits in human and ecosystem health, community well-being and resilience, and biodiversity.
“Regenerative systems are not new but have existed for millennia in Indigenous contexts,” he adds, noting that historically racialized and marginalized communities are using regenerative agriculture to advance equity, food security and justice.
He is available for interviews.
Dr. Philip Loring